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Code flap drives confab

At issue is supply of films, rental charges, minimum runs

SYDNEY — Australian Competition and Consumer Commission member Ross Jones figures to draw the biggest crowd at at this week’s Australian Intl. Movie Convention.

Jones will update attendees on the ACCC review of the Film Code of Conduct, the flashpoint around which fractious distribs and indie exhibs figure to tussle at the convention, which runs Aug. 14-18 at the Royal Pines Resort in Queensland. At issue will be matters such as supply of films, rental charges and minimum runs.Adherence to the code is voluntary, and some indies have called on the ACCC to make the conciliator’s rulings binding. “That’s something we’re considering, but we have not reached a viewpoint on it,” a commission spokesman tells Variety.

The ACCC has had enough complaints from exhibs to “make us think there is not enough awareness of the code or there are problems that are not being solved by the code,” the spokesman says.

The ACCC is expected to send its final report to the government and the code of conduct committee in about a month. Any changes to the code would have to be agreed upon unanimously by the committee.

Words vs. action

Last month, distribs agreed to give “special recognition” to the problems facing small regional and rural cinemas. “We’re pleased with what distributors said, but they’ve said that before” and nothing changed, says Cinema Owners Assn. of Australia president Neil Pentecost.Hoyts Cinemas CEO Paul Johnson, however, feels the code is working. “It’s my understanding that 98% of the complaints handled by the conciliator have been resolved,” he says.

Roadshow Film Distributors chairman Ian Sands supports the code, but says some distribs are insisting on excessively long minimum runs along with no-share policies on major films in rural areas.

At the confab, UIP will collect the gold award for “Shrek,” the highest-grossing pic of the past 12 months.

Among films being previewed for exhibs are “Legally Blonde” (with Oz director Robert Luketic on hand), Aussie revenge drama “The Bank,” France’s “Amelie From Montmartre” and 23 minutes of footage of “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring.”

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